Criterion Month Day 4: Show Boat

Show Boat (1936)

It’s now dawning on me that I’ve been the one to review a movie on the 4th of July all four years that we’ve been doing Criterion Month. These reviews usually consist of me making some off-hand remark in the first paragraph about how crappy current-day America is before moving on to talk about the film in question. However, with this year’s 4th of July review, it’s a little hard for me to move on from current-day America, because one of our current dilemmas of trying to make media more diverse is a big part of Show Boat. While the film’s intentions are more than noble in that regard, there are more than a few things that are problematic about it, which — for better more than worse — makes it about as American as apple pie. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 3: L’Atalante

L’Atalante (1934)

Though there are plenty of examples in the world of music and literature, movies don’t have a ton of singular artists who died too young to ever live up to their full potential. However, one of the early examples of this is French director Jean Vigo, who died before the age of 30 and only has one feature film to his name. L’Atalante is a film that has been said to have had a major impact on the directors of the French New Wave a few decades later, though I think the strangest thing about it is that despite being the film synonymous with its director, it doesn’t seem like it entirely embodies the themes and ideals that Vigo was interested in exploring. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 2: Body and Soul

Body and Soul (1925)

Body and Soul is a 1925 silent film about a young woman who is raped and abused by her small town’s reverend and chooses to run away because she knows no one will believe her. So it’s not a big surprise to read that the version of the film I watched on the Criterion Channel was heavily edited: director Oscar Micheaux cut nearly half its runtime in order to get a release. The director’s cut is long lost and I can’t find much information about Michaeux’s novel that he based the film on, but I’d bet that the original version was an even more powerful condemnation of the manipulative and hypocritical nature of those in power.

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Criterion Month Day 1: Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North (1922)

This year my theme for Criterion Month was a film from every decade starting with the 1920s and ending with the 2010s. Criterion’s physical collection currently contains 21 films from the 1920s, four of which I’ve already seen. So I picked Robert Flaherty’s 1922 documentary Nanook of the North, which is one of those building-block films you hear about in film school. “This was the first film to do blank!” You get the idea. Nanook of the North is a film acclaimed for its storytelling techniques but not so much its actual story. That’s because the story is as Phil Collins might say “a pack of lies.”

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The 4th Annual Criterion Draft

Just as John wraps up talking about his favorite horror movies of the 2010s, we take a trip to the more distant past by making our Criterion Picks. As you may or may not know, each July we at Mildly Pleased review 30-ish movies from the Criterion Collection on the blog, and while many things may be different about this Summer in the world at large, this tradition remains essentially the same. This year, Colin and John stick to past themes of spreading their picks throughout the decades of films, while Sean commits himself to reviewing nothing but black and African-American filmmakers this year.

Unlike in years past, we recorded our draft just a week before Criterion Month starts, so look forward to some reviews already comin’ at ya tomorrow! Continue reading